Epistemic particles and perfomativity

Magdalena Kaufmann, Stefan Kaufmann


The German discourse particles ‘ja’ and ‘doch’ both mark the information
expressed by their host sentence as somehow given, obvious, or uncontroversial (McCready & Zimmermann 2011 call them ‘epistemic particles’). Two things are puzzling: (i) despite its ‘epistemic’ nature, ‘doch’ can appear in imperatives and with performative modals; (ii) despite their similarity, ‘ja’ is unacceptable in imperatives and forces a descriptive reading of modal verbs. We explain (i) by assuming that the performativity of modalized propositions depends on certain contextual constellations which may conflict with constraints imposed by the particles. To account for (ii), we offer an analysis for ‘ja’ and ‘doch’ that explains the inviolable ban against ‘ja’ (but not ‘doch’) from performative modal contexts in terms of defeasible inferences about the context.


particles; performativity; ja; doch

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/salt.v22i0.2635

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